Sometimes I wonder about you… oxidation

Haven’t you wondered about oxidation? Like when your guacamole is starting to look like bean dip or your freshly sliced apples are turning brown? Or maybe you wondered why some dried fruits are brightly colored and others are not. Well, I wonder about those things.

Oxidation in fruit is just like rust on metal. Basically, there is an enzyme (polyphenol oxidase) present in the fruit that reacts with oxygen and browns the surface of the fruit. While oxidation can be unpleasant to eat (who wants to eat brown guacamole), and there may be some loss in nutrients, most nutritional value is not lost.

Several years ago I started to wonder about the dried fruits I was eating, I could taste something I didn’t like in them. I noticed that there were packages, both of bright orange apricots, and brown ones too. The difference: sulfur dioxide.

Many dried fruits have sulfur dioxide, potassium sorbate, or sodium benzoate added to prevent oxidation and help preserve the color and nutritional value. While there are many opinions, and “science”, some saying the preservatives are good and fine and others saying they cause long term side effects, for me, it just came down to taste. It was really that simple. I would rather deal with the oxidation than with the sulfur dioxide.

If you have ever had a dehydrator you learn ways to help preserve color and nutrients without the use of preservatives. For example, soaking fruits in a lemon or lime juice solution, blanching (which destroys the enzymes though), or limiting the exposure to oxygen. Certain fruits are excellent for drying as the nature of the fruit allows it to be protected by the skin and allow the nutritional value to stay intact… like grapes, plums or berries.

For guacamole, I like to wait till the end of preparing it and then seal the top with a thin layer of lime juice (instead of mixing in right away). Not only is the lime key in the taste, it also helps to prevent oxidation by reducing the ph on the surface of the fruit and inactivating the enzyme, and by sealing the top so it prevents air from touching the guacamole… it’s a double whammy. Usually I will then mix the guac right before it gets served.

Just like anything, I try to do my best to look at what I am buying. Especially since so many crops are sprayed with pesticides or herbicides. Also, like in this post, many dried products had additives like artificial sweeteners added. Why? Why do that? It is fruit. Of course, that was in Taiwan, but nonetheless, it is good to be aware of where your food is coming from and the practices used in growing it and preserving it. (I definitely do not always know).

So, while oxidation is inevitable and fine in many respects, such as in dried fruit, there are also times when you should be wary. I am soon going to wonder aloud, or maybe in print, about oxidation in fats and oils.

On a side note, saying dried plums sounds so much better than saying prunes, don’t you think? When you say prunes, it makes one think of nursing homes and bowel movements, but when you say dried plums it makes you think of Christmastime… or something like that. I like dried plums.

Tim is a health researcher and educator based out of Nashville, TN. Connect with him on Instagram @eattodaytolivetomorrow.

The opulent avocado

It sounds silly to say that there is a special place in my heart for avocados… so I won’t say that. While growing up, I never ate avocados. I don’t know why that was the case considering we ate fruits and vegetables all the time. Just as often as there are times when something I eat (or make) brings me back to something my family would make, I seem to do things now that make me think ‘I am changing the course of my future and those who are around me and the things they will remember eating and making with me’. I like that thought.

I do not know exactly what is so satisfying to me about something so simple as an avocado on toast. I am sure it has something to do with the tang of toasted sourdough combined with the smooth richness of avocado. And don’t forget the sea salt… salt brings out the flavors, of course. It is opulent. Yes, food can be described as opulent. I did not want to say luscious because that seems effeminate coming from me… although, now that I say it, let’s be honest, avocados are kind of sexy.

Another reason I think it is so satisfying to me is because of all of its health benefits. Avocados contain vitamins A, B-complex, C, E, H, K, minerals like folate, magnesium, copper, iron, calcium, potassium, and all of the essential amino acids that our body needs. They are also rich in beta-sitosterol, which is used in treating prostate cancer (and other cancers and conditions as well, although it is important to stick to whole food forms like in avocados). Now now, all you ladies, don’t turn and run because I mentioned prostate cancer. In fact, I am sure you will want to know especially since the chances of the men in your life developing prostate cancer are extremely high. It is the third leading cause of cancer deaths in men (JAMA).

I always enjoy eating avocados plain with salt, making guacamole, putting them in a smoothie, or slicing them on a sandwich. I am always curious about new recipes involving them though, so I will most likely be scouring blogs looking for an avocado to catch my eye.

Avocados, what a nice small step in fighting cancer. Now I can understand why Dr. Asa Andrews says “An avocado a day keeps prostate problems away.”

Tim is a health researcher and educator based out of Nashville, TN. Connect with him on Instagram @eattodaytolivetomorrow.

Yeah… I am a fan of smoothies

Yeah, I am a big fan of smoothies. I like to blend things in the blender almost everyday. I particularly like real milk, berries (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries), banana, cocoa, and eggs. That is probably my favorite combination. This particular morning I thought I would mix it up a bit with an avocado since I was all out of bananas. I am a big fan of avocados too. Am I saying ‘fan’ too much?

Avocados promote HDL (good cholesterol) and lower LDL (bad cholesterol). They are full of monounsaturated fat (oleic acid) which is good for heart health. They are also bursting with nutrients… bursting I tell you! Avocados contain vitamins A, B-complex, C, E, H, K, minerals like folate, magnesium, copper, iron, calcium, potassium, and all of the essential amino acids that our body needs.

Now, now… adding avocados to a smoothie may be a little too weird for you. It is a different taste. But no fear, I have experimented several times and I rather enjoy it myself. I first wanted to try it after reading how in other parts of the world avocado shakes and durian shakes were common fare. I have never had durian fruit, but hey I have avocados! And off I went blending and combining.

I would recommend trying a little at first and seeing what you think. I like 1 cup of milk, a banana and then I add all of my other ingredients to taste. Smoothies are a great way to get goodness into your body… especially since digestion takes so much of your body’s energy. Preferably you don’t give your body a crazy insulin swing with way too much sugar in your smoothie. AND Yes, my smoothie is in a wine glass… that’s just how I roll. Not really, I was just in a goofy mood and wanted to put it in a wine glass this particular day.

Nice window, nice counter, nice flower.

Tim is a health researcher and educator based out of Nashville, TN. Connect with him on Instagram @eattodaytolivetomorrow.